The Last Palace: Europe’s Tur­bu­lent Cen­tu­ry Through Five Lives and One House

  • From the Publisher
May 4, 2018

When Nor­man Eisen moved into the US ambas­sador’s res­i­dence in Prague, return­ing to the land his moth­er had fled after the Holo­caust, he was star­tled to dis­cov­er swastikas hid­den beneath the fur­ni­ture in his new home. These sym­bols of Nazi Ger­many were rem­nants of the res­i­dence’s for­got­ten his­to­ry, and evi­dence that we nev­er live far from the past.

From that dis­cov­ery unspooled the twist­ing, cap­ti­vat­ing tale of four of the remark­able peo­ple who had called this palace home. Their sto­ry is Europe’s, and The Last Palace chron­i­cles the upheavals that trans­formed the con­ti­nent over the past cen­tu­ry. There was the opti­mistic Jew­ish finan­cial baron, Otto Petschek, who built the palace after World War I as a state­ment of his faith in democ­ra­cy, only to have that faith shat­tered; Rudolf Tou­s­saint, the cul­tured, com­pro­mised Ger­man gen­er­al who occu­pied the palace dur­ing World War II, ulti­mate­ly putting his life at risk to save the house and Prague itself from destruc­tion; Lau­rence Stein­hardt, the first post­war US ambas­sador whose quixot­ic strug­gle to keep the palace out of Com­mu­nist hands was paired with his pitched efforts to res­cue the coun­try from Sovi­et dom­i­na­tion; and Shirley Tem­ple Black, an eye­wit­ness to the crush­ing of the 1968 Prague Spring by Sovi­et tanks, who deter­mined to return to Prague and help end total­i­tar­i­an­ism – and did just that as US ambas­sador in 1989.

Weav­ing in the life of Eisen’s own moth­er to demon­strate how those with­out pow­er and priv­i­lege moved through his­to­ry, The Last Palace tells the dra­mat­ic and sur­pris­ing­ly cycli­cal tale of the tri­umph of lib­er­al democracy.

Discussion Questions